David's Blog

Friday, August 14, 2009

Extending Progress Through a Skywalk Extension

Downtown Duluth has enjoyed a transforming revitalization. The Technology Village, located at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street, was an extraordinarily bold project that sparked this revitalization. In one monumental effort it transformed a dilapidated and unsightly block of decaying buildings into a triumphant centerpiece for our downtown. In doing so, it heralded a new and positive era for Duluthians fortunate enough to live and work in our beloved downtown.

A&L Properties, which built the Tech Village in 1999, invested over $26 million in this highly visible landmark. The City of Duluth, as their part of the building project, promised to build a skywalk connecting the Tech Village to the existing skywalk system. The skywalk was planned to span Lake Avenue. The City assured A&L Properties that the skywalk would be completed by the time the Tech Village opened in 1999.

That's right, 1999. Unlike the music icon, Prince, the leadership of A&L Properties could not - Party Like It's 1999. They are still waiting to celebrate the completion of the promised skywalk connection over Lake Avenue. Thankfully, the City of Duluth finally approved and financed the skywalk extension. It is being constructed at the cost of $2.35 million. It is scheduled to be completed by October. It is difficult for us to fully appreciate the difficulties A&L Properties endured while waiting ten years for the City to fulfill its part of the Technology Village bargain. The City's disappointing performance, at a minimum, does not engender confidence in their ability to fund and build future skywalk extensions.

This is one understandable reason why A&L Properties is willing to privately fund and build the next skywalk originating from the Technology Village. Rob Link, of A&L Properties, is hoping to build a skywalk linking the Technology Village and the recently completed Wieland Block development. The Wieland Block is another bold and beautiful showpiece within our downtown - also developed by A&L Properties. It is bringing additional private investment, character and optimism to our downtown. The proposed skywalk would pass over Superior Street just east of Lake Avenue. It was part of the original Master Plan and vision for the Technology Village, approved by the City of Duluth.

Construction of the Wieland Block skywalk will be friendly to downtown motorists. It will be designed in a way that will not require Superior Street to be closed for an extended period. It will be installed in sections during nighttime hours. Its floor-to-ceiling glass and compelling design will enhance the beauty of our downtown.

All that is required to make this needed, tax-free addition to the downtown a reality are some approvals within City Hall. A&L has filed a request for a building and a concurrent use permit from the City of Duluth. The Duluth Planning Commission is scheduled to take action on the requested permit August 11. The Planning Commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the Duluth City Council, which will act to approve or deny the permit.

Please join me in encouraging the Planning Commission and the City Council to approve the permits. It would be wise to allow A&L Properties to continue investing resources and spirit in the welcome renewal of our historic downtown.

In support and advocacy,
David Ross
President & CEO

posted by David Ross at

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